BeerAppreciation’s Beer Education – 10 Beer Myth Busters

By August 3, 2009Beer Education

Peter Tasting

1. “Lager” means a particular brand of beer.

Actually, all beers are either lagers or ales – it refers to the two main ways beers are brewed. A “Lager” is not a brand, it’s a whole type of beer with many different styles and brands.

When a beer is brewed, it can be either an “ale” or a “lager”. Ales were the first beers, a type brewed since 4000 BC. Traditionally brewed quickly at warmer temperatures, ales usually have a somewhat robust beer taste and aroma. Lagers were developed by European brewers in the 1800’s and are brewed more slowly in colder temperatures, and result in a crisper, lighter bodied and somewhat less flavorful brew.

So, when you ask for a “lager” consider that it would be like going a car dealer and asking them to bring you a “car” – they’ll probably get you one, but you are allowing them to make the selection or you. There are many lager styles (Pilsner, Bock, Light beers) and lager brands so when you ask for a “lager” you could get a Miller Light, Corona or a Becks if you don’t make your own choice. Sure there’s a marketing push that is about how Yuengling’s is a lager – and a Ford is a car too.

Lagers are a great beer style, and a refreshing alternative to more flavorful ales, but don’t forget to make your own choice of beer you want.

2. Dark colored beers are stronger than light colored beers.

Most people think that a darker hued brew is a stronger tasting brew – so are intimidated by any beer that’s not light gold in color. How many times have I seen people look at an amber beer and recoil saying “I don’t like dark beers – they’re too strong”?

The fact is that the color of beer is determined by the amount of roasting of the grain that goes into it – it has nothing to do with bitterness, alcohol content or even calories. There are many golden ales that are far stronger than the darkest stout (typical Irish stout is lower in calories and alcohol than the typical American lager).

A light golden colored beer like the Belgian Triple can have more than twice the alcohol of a typical American golden lager or pale ale. Conversely, there are darker colored beers that are really quite light and refreshing – the “British brown” style – with NewCastle as an example is lighter in alcohol and flavor than many lagers.

It may be true that darker or amber colored beers may have as a rule more beer flavor than most commonly found golden lager beers, but it would be more correct to say “I don’t like dark beers – they have too much beer flavor”.

3. The best way to serve any beer is in a frosted glass.

A widely held belief is that the best way to serve all beer is in an ice cold glass encrusted with frost. Many bars serve there beers this way, and even people at home will bring you a frosty beer mug to show that they want you to have a great beer experience.

The fact is that certain types and styles of beer are best served very cold – in particular the lager styles (like pilsners) which are brewed cold and don’t have a lot of malty flavor or aroma to start with. Serving them very cold emphasizes their crisp carbonation and lighter flavor.

On the other hand ales – like a Stout, IPA or an Amber Ale are full of aroma, flavors and body – which are masked when served ice cold. The best way to serve ales is in a wide mouth glass or mug that is cool, but not icy. This allows them to warm up a little and share their malty aroma and flavor.

If you want to frost any glass – a tall pilsner glass for a refreshing lager would be best.

Though if you ask me, whether it’s a lager or an ale – I don’t like ice floating around in my beer at all.

4. Light beers have much less calories than any regular beer.

The 90 – 100 calorie light beer is often chosen by the health conscious beer drinker because it is perceived to have far less calories than regular beers. Actually, there is often less than 30 calories difference in the light version of an American lager verses it’s full strength counterpart. While 30 calories can add up over many beers, it’s not really a lot in itself. One teaspoon of sugar represents about that amount of calories.

Some full flavored “full strength beers” like Guinness Stout are within 10 calories of a typical Bud Light in a 12 oz serving – about the same calories as a glass of milk.

So, the real thing you need to consider is – If really like beer flavor at all and you are calorie conscious, should you have four light beers over a couple of hours or three really good “full strength” beers for the same calories. Why wouldn’t you choose three really good beers, and really enjoy what you are drinking?

After all, if you want to, you can have a glass of water or seltzer in between each beer you drink and end up with even more less filling and more satisfying beer experience, and keep your whistle wet for the whole night.

5. Beer is for men and wine is for women.

Many women feel that it is not “feminine” to drink beer, and that the rowdy “beer drinkin’ man” reputation portrayed in most popular beer commercials proves that beer is exclusively part of a man’s world.

In reality, originally beer and brewing was the responsibility exclusively of women. Making the beer used to be part of running the household, and all brewers were women – and those that were particularly good at it would then sell their extras to the locals. The original inn keepers were women, and were an important part of the community.

The first brewer in Pennsylvania to establish a brewery after prohibition was a woman – Carol Stoudt, at her craft brewery in Adamstown, Pa.. Her beer has won awards and national renown.

Once per ounce, wine has about twice the calories of beer, so while it’s the popular perception that wine is the woman’s preference “to keep her figure” that’s not really the case.

I don’t blame woman for having difficulty identifying with the hairy horny guys scratching themselves and swilling beer you see on TV and in movies like “Beerfest”, in fact, I think that most intelligent people don’t want to see themselves that way.  The fact is that beer appreciation is for everyone, and just as many men see wine as a pleasant experience, women should feel the same about their beer.

Other Myths (in short):

6. Imported beer is higher quality than American brewed beer.

The “green bottle” beers from Europe are looked at as “premium beers” of better quality than US brewed beers, and people will pay extra to get it. In fact, the main enemies of beer flavor and quality are light and heat, and beer shipped from overseas is exposed to a lot of both. Most US beers are fresher and brewed with similar if not better ingredients.

7. Wine is great with food, but beer isn’t.

It is commonly believed that all great dining experiences with alcoholic beverages involve wine. Wine is an acidic beverage, and by its nature changes the flavors of food when you consume them together. Beer on the other hand is complementary of most all foods – including those that don’t work with wine – like Thai or Mexican foods. Beer is more flexible than wine with food – working well with spicy foods, brunches and barbecues in ways wines don’t.

8. Beer is going out of style in America, wine and other spirits are replacing it.

Over the last couple of years there have been a lot of reports in the media around the fact that the total US consumption of beer has started to fall for the first time, and gains have been made in the market by wine and other alcoholic beverages – so beer is falling out of favor. In fact the decline of some of the big beers (big American Breweries like Miller and Bud) has been almost matched by the significant growth in craft beer consumption – which has grown by 11% in 2006. The interest in great American craft brewed beer has been growing steadily and shows that while the interest in the basic “big beer” is declining somewhat, interest in great American beer is growing strong.

9. Beer makes you fat.

The “beer belly” is widely believed to be the result of drinking beer – while wine and whiskey drinkers are seen as stylish and thin. There is no proven link between beer drinking and obesity – other than the result of over indulgence – as with any food product. Beer has no fat or cholesterol , and has proven to be part of a healthy diet. The average beer has about 12 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving. If you drank a half case of beer you still wouldn’t reach the government’s recommended daily allotment of carbohydrates. Why don’t we hear of “wine bellies”?

10. Wine is good for you but beer is not.

There has been a lot of press about the heath benefits of wine – in particular red wine. It has been proven that most of the things in red wine that bring benefits are also in beer – particularly darker beer. These include falvonoids, anti oxidants, and other things that are proven to bring health benefits. Actually, beer has other healthy ingredients that wine doesn’t’ have – such as vitamin B2 (Brewers yeast) which has long been valued by health professionals, and hops (used to add bitterness to beer) has been found to have some anti-carcinogenic properties.